Russian Physicist Discover New Exotic Atom

  • The LHC is a project of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
  • The core of an ordinary helium atom consists of two protons and two neutrons.
  • Helium is formed in the earth by natural radioactive decay of heavier elements.

Russian physicists Yevgeny Solovyov and Tasko Grodzanov, from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research and the University of Belgrade created a unique helium atom by colliding a normal helium atom and antimatter particles in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The core of an ordinary helium atom consists of two protons and two neutrons. Two electrons revolve around the nucleus. Helium has atomic number: 2 and atomic weight 4,0026 g/mol.

Helium is one of the noble gases of group O in the periodic table and the second lightest element. Helium has a myriad of special properties including  low boiling point, low density, low solubility, high thermal conductivity and inertness. Helium constitutes the 23% of all elemental matter measured by mass. Helium is formed in the earth by natural radioactive decay of heavier elements. The main helium source around the globe is a series of fields of natural gas in the United States.

The Joint Institute for Nuclear Research is an international intergovernmental organization, a world famous scientific centre that is a unique example of integration of fundamental theoretical and experimental research with development and application of the cutting edge technology and university education. The rating of JINR in the world scientific community is very high.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. It consists of a 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures to boost the energy of the particles along the way. The Collider has been operational since 2009. The LHC is a project of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). It is located outside of Geneva. Switzerland. During the experiment the LHC is sending beams of protons and ions at a velocity approaching the speed of light. Researchers then observe them colliding and record the data.

If you replace one of them with an antiparticle, you get an exotic helium atom. The atomic electron was replaced by an antiproton that is stable but typically short-lived, since any collision with a proton will cause both particles to be annihilated in a burst of energy. The charge of the antiproton is the same as that of the electron: negative and equal in magnitude to the positive charge of the proton. Therefore, if you replace an electron with an antiproton, the atom as a whole will remain neutral.

You can’t embed an antiparticle in an ordinary atom that is almost 2,000 times the mass of an electron. If the proton and antiproton get close enough, they will annihilate (disappear), turning into elementary particles that carry the interaction. Thus far, there is only one configuration of the exotic helium atom that has been implemented. The antiparticle was launched in special antiproton orbits, while not allowing it to get close to the nucleus containing protons.

The physicists implemented a configuration called “frozen-planet state.” The frozen planet state allows the remaining electron in the atom to be converted to an excited state. As it spins around the nucleus, the electron generates a potential well in which it is allows to get to the antiproton. The time spent by the antiproton in an atomic trap depends on its energy and distance from the nucleus.

The full study.

In the near future, physicists plan to study configurations similar to such states, to locate antimatter particles in the atoms of a similar substance.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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